In one sense, it’s a very good time to be an artist. There’s a lot of money out there, collector and corporate, to fund new work. Companies are using art to get publicity for their business ventures; the overwhelming memory of Art Basel 07 is one of corporate logos, hard-sell pitches and luxury branding.
Since half of creative New York has moved down to Miami this week for Art Basel, we sent reporter Alexandra Peers down with them to peek at the art, beauty, and elitism on the beach. She's been filing reports to New York's Vulture blog, but she sent us this dispatch for our very own.
The e-mail buzzes on my BlackBerry: "We would love to have you come by to pick up something — for the Miami dinner celebrating the Emilio Pucci house of design." What? Sorry, fashionistas, snobby art-worlders don't borrow clothes. My outrage is first personal — has someone dished my Bloomie's little black dress? — then, political. It sounds Fascist.
"It's too early to tell," says bewhiskered Upper East Side art dealer Robert Mnuchin, a little more than an hour into the blockbuster and busy Art Basel Miami fair. But, in one sense, it isn't too early; a quick sprint across the floor of the Miami Convention Center shows some artists who've already hit the jackpot because powerhouse dealers are displaying them alongside bigger names.
"Here we go again!" Sam Keller, impresario of Art Basel Miami, cries out to a friend on a Miami street late last night. And, as if on cue, the double doors of a giant geodesic dome swing open over his shoulder to reveal millions of dollars' worth of glittering jewels.
Amid the dense and hedonistic five-day spree of partying at Art Basel Miami Beach, it's easy to forget that millions of dollars of art changed hands, too. And when the rhinestones had settled, the surprises went far beyond the no-shirt dress code (for men, at least) at the Visionaire party Saturday. Art dealers at the fair, which drew a record 40,000 attendees, had braced for Russian buyers, hedge-fund spending, and buzzy interest in the new new things. Instead, Latin Americans went on a binge, artists from the seventies outdrew emerging stars, and there was furious — even competitive — buying by a suite of New York–based real-estate developers.
So who bought what?
It was a social whirl — quite literally — over the weekend at Art Basel Miami Beach, as weathered partygoers plotted their overflowing dance cards while the wind picked up, the rain beat down, and it felt like a hurricane was going to sweep away all the art and all the money and Steve Martin, who had arrived at the fair and was giving Keanu Reeves some competition for most Hollywood-celebrity sightings.
Friday was the weekend's busy night.
MIAMI BEACH — You don't tend to find guys in baseball caps at art fairs. So when you spot one at Art Basel Miami Beach, it's a good bet who's underneath it: Russell Simmons. The Def Jams founder has been holding court this week at the Delano, the festival's headquarters. His high-profile presence at Art Basel — he's often seen chatting on the hotel's front porch or just walking down the street in cap and jeans — has been a boon to fair organizers, some of whom have fretted privately that the otherwise hugely successful event has been a little low on non-art-world star wattage. Simmons — an Art Basel vet — is here to host a variety of events, most for his arts-education charity, Rush Philanthropic. But he's also art shopping.
What does he collect?
MIAMI BEACH — The celebrities at Art Basel Miami Beach are rich collectors and powerful gallerists, for the most part, which means the sightings are usually less than glamorous. (Look, there's Tony Shafrazi in orange swim trunks!) But one bit of Hollywood celebrity hanging around has been Keanu Reeves, who was spotted last night by the bar at the Standard and quickly ushered into the dinner there hosted by Yvonne Force Villareal and Mark Fletcher. When a photog tried to snap his picture, Reeves begged to share a smoke instead, offering up a menthol cigarette as a consolation prize. It worked.
Inside, the art stars were lounging on $50 beach towels designed by Richard Phillips, Marilyn Minter, Rob Pruitt, and Alex Katz that are sold through Target to benefit Force's Art Production Fund. It was very Morocco meets Miami, and everyone looked good in the low candlelight.
MIAMI BEACH — Fashion met art at Art Basel Miami beach last night, and this was not necessarily a good thing. The worlds collided in David Bouley's place — specifically, his gorgeous new South Beach restaurant, Evolution, where Jimmy Choo's Tamara Mellon was throwing a fête for the Whitney. The problem: There were other, nearly as important places to be, and stops at those other events made everyone very late for this one. What were the rivals? A Russell Simmons dinner at the Delano penthouse, and a lush UBS-sponsored dinner, where billionaires were as common as palm trees. At the packed and chaotic Ralph Lauren party to benefit RxArt, which was one of the rare and welcome charity events at the otherwise largely venal Art Basel, the wife of a hedgie, bearing an invitation, was initially denied entrance — to a store, she noted, annoyed — because she hadn't RSVP'd. (Once she got inside, she'd find Andrew Shriver, Nikki Haskell, Gene Pressman, Bob Colacello, the lovely mom of Ralph Lauren exec David Calle, and some nice clothes.)
But what about back at swanky Evolution?